InterVarsity back on California campuses

Higher Education
by Mickey McLean
Posted 6/19/15, 07:38 pm

After a year in exile, 23 InterVarsity chapters will return to 19 California State University (CSU) campuses this fall.

The Christian ministry was forced to move off-campus and became unofficial student groups because of a CSU requirement that chapter leadership be open to nonbelievers. InterVarsity asks its student leaders to affirm a statement of faith that defines their shared Christian belief.

InterVarsity and CSU made the joint announcement on Friday.

“Following substantive and cordial ongoing conversations, CSU clarified the intent and reach of Executive Order 1068,” InterVarsity President Jim Lundgren said in a statement, referencing CSU’s order that set last year’s withdrawal in motion. “We are confident we can choose leaders who are qualified to lead InterVarsity’s witnessing communities throughout the Cal State system.”

CSU’s initial challenge to Christian student groups started with the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the University of California’s Hastings Law School. Administrators there instituted an “all-comers” policy that required all groups to be open to all students, regardless of a student’s belief.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy in a narrow ruling that pertained only to Hastings. Although CSU eventually rolled out the policy to all its campuses, conservative legal experts believed CSU took the court’s interpretation too far. At Hastings, the high court ruled a true all-comers policy did not violate students’ constitutional rights because it was universally applied. But on other campuses, administrators have provided exceptions for gender-based groups like fraternities and sororities, which raised questions about whether the policy was as neutral as it claimed to be.

In its announcement, InterVarsity noted that despite the victory in California, the ministry continues to face resistance at other schools in California, New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Maine, Iowa, and Florida.

“While we are grateful to have resolved the issue with CSU, InterVarsity continues to believe that all-comers policies will result in the exclusion, rather than inclusion, of diverse students from campus,” Lundgren said.

Leigh Jones contributed to this report.

Mickey McLean

Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.

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